By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Attendees of this year’s K-Days have the opportunity to learn more about the region’s Indigenous cultures, purchase handcrafted goods and listen to live musical performances at the Indigenous Experience exhibit.
Lyle Donald, president of the Indigenous Edmonton Entertainment Group Association (IEEGA), says the programming dates back to 2006-09, when it was delivered as part of the Northlands exhibition.
In November 2021, he met with Explore Edmonton about bringing the Indigenous Experience to K-Days, which to his surprise they accepted. He established the IEEGA around this time to showcase Indigenous culture in various capacities, not just limited to K-Days. There are future plans for an international powwow and Indigenous rodeo.
The purpose of the Indigenous Experience is to educate Edmontonians about Indigenous histories and cultures for the purposes of Truth and Reconciliation. Edmonton has the second-largest urban Indigenous population in Canada, following Winnipeg.
July 25 was Indigenous Day at K-Days, which happened to coincide with the Pope’s historic apology for residential schools.
“The next thing we know, the Pope was coming here, and Truth and Reconciliation is happening while we’re doing this program, so everything kind of worked together,” Donald said.
Explore Edmonton provided Hall C in the Expo building free of charge, and they received funding from the federal government and City of Edmonton, but notably not the provincial government.
The exhibition includes an Indigenous Art Walk, Metis Healing Garden, a Treaty 101 display, various vendors selling arts and crafts, a food truck, and live music. There was also a two-day career fair to connect Indigenous businesses with Indigenous employees on July 23 and 24.
Donald said he wants to show Edmontonians that stereotypes about Indigenous people aren’t true.
“We have to show the non-Indigenous community the strength that we have. Like a lot of people see our people on the streets and we think, that’s not us. We have a lot of successful people in different areas,” he said.
This sentiment is shared by IEEGA general manager Marlene Poitras.
“We want to bring people together and get rid of the different stereotypes and racism. People know that we’re welcoming people, and we will work with others and teach them and embrace them,” Poitras said.
Arlindo Gomes, a VP at Explore Edmonton, said he envisions a long-term partnership with IEEGA, with whom Explore Edmonton has a three-year contract.
“This isn’t about one year,” Gomes said. “It’s really about making sure that we are providing them with the showcase, especially with all the people that come to K-Days.”